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True Stories: Ménage à Nicolas
"After a few drinks, I noticed that Nicolas's hand was resting on my leg…"
by Marguerite Kennedy
Shortly after moving to New York from Paris, I landed my first "real" job, working in a low-level capacity for a minor branch of the French government. The position didn't pay very well, but it had certain perks: a nice office, compulsory wine tastings, and — best of all — a cohort of young, single interns who were roughly my age. At an after-work happy hour my first month on the job, I started chatting with a Dijon native named "Nicolas," who had recently completed his M.B.A. in some sort of food-related marketing.
After a few drinks, I noticed that Nicolas's hand was resting on my leg. This helped me to feign interest as he expounded at great (great) length on Tariffs Imposed on Refrigerated and Non-Refrigerated Milk-Based Products Exported by E.U. Nations. (Don't say I haven't suffered in order to get laid.) In the course of the evening, Nicolas had somehow managed to remove my underpants under the table — all without missing a beat in his discussion of dairy import regulations.
At the end of the night, Nicolas whispered that he had a contraband wheel of unpasteurized camembert back at his place. He asked if I wanted to come back and, ahem, "déguster du fromage." (That's "taste some cheese.")
I burst out laughing. "That's the cheesiest line I've ever heard," I said, in English.
He didn't understand the term. "Qu'est-ce que ce, chee-zee?"
Running my foot up his leg, I said I would love to (making air quotes) "déguster du fromage." Again, he didn't get the joke, but I felt certain that his invitation had nothing to do with the promised wheel of illegally-imported cheese.
Sure enough, back at his apartment, the closest thing to cheese was an unfortunate collection of Oasis CDs. This should've been a warning, but I slept with him anyway. He was one of those people who talked a lot during sex, making frequent and distracting use of the subjunctive case of various French verbs, kind of like a filthy, interactive version of some language-learning software.
It would be an exaggeration to say that Nicolas and I ever dated per se, but over the next few months, we would occasionally go home with each other after a night at the bar. After each of our encounters, Nicolas would go off on a diatribe to clarify that we were absolutely, in no way ensemble (i.e., dating), for what he called "obvious reasons."
"You mean, because you talk at great (great) length about dairy-related tariffs?" I started to ask, but bit my tongue. It was like being rejected for a job you never applied for in the first place.
"Not to worry," I assured him. "I'm just using you for sex." For once, Nicolas laughed hysterically at something I'd said. Ironically, I wasn't joking.
A few months later, yet another intern appeared on the scene. He was a tall, handsome Breton who was bald as a cue ball, and he, too, was named "Nicolas." He and I hit it off immediately. Unlike Nicolas Un, Nicolas Deux got all of my jokes, and matched them one-for-one with his own. He invited me out for a drink after work. At the end of the evening, Nicolas 2.0 asked if I wanted to come up to his apartment to "see the view." I knew that by "the view" he meant "...of his penis," but as it happened, I did want to see it.
At this point, I should tell you that the two Nicolaseseses actually shared an apartment owned by the French government (which, incidentally, did have a lovely view). The next morning, I woke up early and tiptoed out of New & Improved Nicolas' room, hoping to avoid crossing paths with Original Recipe Nicolas.
It was barely 7 a.m., but Nicolas Un was already sitting at the table, sipping coffee and reading the morning paper, wearing an expression stolen from Glenn Close in the third act of Fatal Attraction.